Sandy Found to Be Behind Jersey Shore Boardwalk Fire
Superstorm Sandy was behind the faulty electrical wiring that caused the Sept. 12 wind-swept blaze that destroyed part of the Jersey Shore's iconic boardwalk last week, officials say.
Ocean County investigators have made that connection and determined that the fire was accidental, Joseph D. Coronato, Ocean County prosecutor, said in a Sept. 17 press conference aired in part on the Internet. The blaze originated in Seaside Park underneath a structure that housed the Biscayne Candies and Kohr's Frozen Custard shops and then spread to Seaside Heights, destroying more than 50 businesses.
The team of 27 investigators and four accelerant-detection K9 dogs from federal, state, county and local agencies is "confident and in complete consensus that the failure of energized electrical equipment and wiring located under the boardwalk and subfloors of the original structures were compromised by Sandy flood waters and contributed to the fire," Coronato says.
The team, which arrived at its conclusion after 40 "exhaustive" hours examining the fire scene debris, found pre-storm wiring of various sizes including multiple electrical connections that were fully submerged in Sandy's salt water and subject to sand and wave action, Coronato says.
The wiring was installed after 1970 and in a "totally unaccessible" area of the boardwalk and "certainly could have failed on its own," he says. However, investigators are certain that "water and sand [from Sandy] defected this particular area of the boardwalk."
However, while investigators found wiring and receptacles under the boardwalk, they have not yet identified "the smoking gun," or the particular receptacle where the fire started, he says.
The announcement put to rest prior speculation that the blaze may have been set on purpose. Coronato says it "certainly was not criminal in nature."
The prosecutor is also "strongly advising" Sandy-impacted businesses and homeowners to have any electrical systems that were submerged in the storm inspected and replaced if necessary.
Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie has announced plans to use up to $15 million in Sandy funds to help in recovery efforts from the blaze.